I grew up in New Jersey (the garden state!), and my dad was very into gardening and landscaping as hobbies, so I absorbed a lot of information that way. I have really vivid childhood memories of harvesting strawberries and tomatoes from our backyard. While I’d had plants here and there over the years, I wouldn’t have considered myself obsessed with plants until I bought a condo in early 2017 and could really set down roots. I planted a mulberry tree in the backyard and the rest was history!
2. How did you get involved with Desk Plants?
At the start of this year I decided to switch careers from software sales to something involving plants, I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I’d started an Instagram account for my plant collection (it’s @powrplants although I don’t post super often anymore), and the Desk Plants account actually followed me and liked a bunch of my photos. I went down to the Mueller farmers market looking for networking and volunteer opportunities, and recognized the Desk Plants logo from Instagram. After talking to Lawrence, it was clear that this was the best opportunity to blend my corporate background with my love for plants.
3. What’s the best piece of advice you have for keeping indoor plants alive?
Keep them where you see them often and can observe changes over time. It’s really easy to forget about plants if they’re tucked away somewhere.
I won’t mention overwatering since there’s plenty of information online about that, but I will say that some of the most helpful things you can do for your plants are aerating the soil periodically and spraying them with neem oil every month or so. In the wild, worms and other soil-dwelling creatures do the aerating work for you. Over time, watering compacts the soil, so indoor plants need our help to get oxygen to their roots. Neem oil is a relatively inexpensive, organic fungicide/insecticide/miticide that wards off just about anything that will bite into your plant. Make sure you dilute it properly and shake it up as you’re spraying so it doesn’t separate. Also it smells like a weird mix of citrus and onions, so set your expectations accordingly!
4. Are you from Austin? What brought you here?
I mentioned I’m from New Jersey, but I also went to college in Vermont (UVM), and graduated in 2011. I heard Austin was a great market for young professionals, so I took a chance and moved without a job lined up. It worked out and I’ve been here ever since!
5. What’s the most rewarding part of working with Desk Plants?
It blends a lot of the best parts of working for a startup, including lots of autonomy and the ability to wear multiple hats. It’s awesome that I get to go plant shopping for a living. Most of all, I love that it gives me so many chances to observe, experiment, and problem solve with plants at scale. They do such weird things when we’re not looking, and the more you have, the more crazy stuff you’ll see.
I also have an agenda - I believe that if you put a plant on every person’s desk, we’ll eventually have more farmers in the world than we would have otherwise. I don’t have to explain why sustainable food production and slowing climate change are critical to our success on this planet, but I’m happy that I get to feel like I’m part of the solution.
6. How many plants do you currently own?
Around 75 individual plants between 40 different species. Some of my favorites are a pomegranate tree, a cutting from my mom’s decades-old golden pothos, an english ivy, and a pineapple. I also have about 100 succulent leaves I’ve picked up off the floor of home improvement stores that I’m propagating.
7. Do you have a favorite Desk Plant?
I love brazil philodendrons! I have one at my place and it’s doing really well. I’ve been waiting until it visibly droops to water it, which is a good rule of thumb for most foliage-type plants, including the pothos Desk Plants sells.
8. What’s the theme song to the life of Virginia Stroup?
I love music and there’s too much to list here, but here’s the playlist I’ve been curating for the greenhouse. The plants love it, I can tell!. If I had to pick one song though, it’d be Cold War by Cautious Clay.
9. On your days off, what do you find yourself doing?
I volunteer at a farm on Saturdays where I take care of about 40 tomato plants, as well as everything from artichokes to corn, okra, eggplant, pumpkin, peppers, etc. I’m really excited to plant for fall/winter, I’m going to try a bunch of gourd and lettuce varieties. I started brewing kombucha a few months back and I love it! I also do normal things like eating at restaurants or going to bars to work on my pool game.
10. What is your favorite way to beat the intense summer heat in Austin?
Either floating the river or going to Barton Springs! Or the Alamo Drafthouse is always a good indoor option.